Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stealing From Mentally Ill

AC-T: "The very premise of North Carolina’s mental health reform — that money saved by closing state hospital beds would follow patients into the community — is being overturned, mental health care providers and advocates say.

The state’s budget director, David McCoy, has advised that the money instead be diverted to pay debt service — $4 million this year and $8.9 million next year — on the new state hospital under construction in Butner. The city is about four hours east of Asheville, not far from Durham.

In a letter to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odum, McCoy said the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services is not authorized to transfer money from “downsizing funds” to the local management entities. The LMEs, as they are known, are responsible for building and managing a network of local mental health services providers."
"This action comes on the heels of a proposal to cut $28 million in administration funds to the LMEs in the coming budget year."
"“We can’t build a network of services if we don’t have the money to do it,” said Anne Doucette, director of provider and community network development at Western Highlands Network. “It just can’t be done without money. People are going to wind up in crisis, in jails and emergency rooms, and that’s a lot more expensive.”

Tom McDevitt, director of Smoky Mountain Center, the LME for the seven westernmost counties in the state, said the dollars saved from downsizing state psychiatric hospitals were supposed to pay for building community services that would help keep people from being hospitalized."

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